The following story appeared in the Feb. 26 issue of the Idaho Catholic Register
Students from Idaho college campuses listen to speakers during this year's SEEK Conference sponsored by the Fellow-ship of Catholic University Students. COVID forced the conference to be held in many locations throughout the nation, however the head of FOCUS and some of the major speakers chose to be in Idaho. (ICR photo courtesy of Andrew Furphy)
By Andrew Furphy
For the Idaho Catholic Register
FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) typically hosts a biennial conference, known as SEEK, in a major city somewhere in the United States. SEEK typically draws more than 10,000 college students from all across the nation to discover what it is that they truly seek – to grow in faith, friendship, and to experience God’s love in a tangible way through His Church.
Due to COVID-19, it was announced late last year that, instead of the large gathering that had been planned in St. Louis, SEEK would occur in smaller, more intimate, gatherings and participation would occur virtually.
The campus ministries in Idaho began to discuss the ways our ministries in the Diocese could offer a similar, albeit smaller, version of SEEK here. St. Paul’s (serving Boise State) and St. John’s (serving Idaho State) decided to gather together in Boise, while St. Augustine’s (serving the University of Idaho) partnered with Eastern Washington, the University of Montana and Gonzaga University at a retreat center in Post Falls.
Between the two locations, about 250 people gathered for this conference to encounter Christ and grow in small groups.
In Boise, nearly 200 attendees from Idaho State University, Boise State University, and parishioners in the Treasure Valley gathered at the Nampa Civic Center. They were joined in-person by special guests including Curtis Martin, the CEO and founder of FOCUS; Jason Evert, nationally-known Catholic author and chastity speaker; Dr. Andrew Swafford, professor of theology at Benedictine College; and Sarah Swafford, founder of Emotional Virtue Ministries.
“Sarah Swafford gave a great talk that challenged me to improve myself, to strive to overcome my shortcomings,” said Leo Gannon, an Idaho State student. Gannon said he also enjoyed Adoration. “It was nice to come to Jesus with a clean slate. I went to Confession first.”
Another Idaho State student, Oren Crafts, who is not a Catholic, said he found the talks “very convincing.” He enjoyed Father Mike Schmitz’s talk the most “because he spoke about how God wants us to be engaged in His will rather than just going through the motions or simply fulfilling obligations.” What stood most to Crafts, he said, was seeing religious order Sisters and Brothers as well as priests “as real people.”
Boise State student Hannah Green was struck by a question posed by Sister Miriam James Heidland, who quoted Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”
'As a college student discerning God’s plan for my life, this question really caught my ear. No, it was more than that. It caught my heart.'
-- Hannah Green
--Boise State University student
“As a college student discerning God’s plan for my life, this question really caught my ear. No, it was more than that. It caught my heart,” Green said. “This question lead me deeper into prayer. It made me ask not only who am I and why am I here, but also what do I look like in the eyes of God and how can I best serve Him. These questions drew me into a deeper relationship with God especially as I came face to face with Him in Adoration.”
Green noted on how on the conference’s final day, “every knee bent in the presence of God as the monstrance was carried through the doors for Adoration. I was overcome by wonder and awe. As our Lord was processed through the crowd to the altar, the crowd shifted to keep their gaze on God. We all knew that we were in the presence of Christ and a deep love for God filled the room. It was amazing to see the deep respect each person had for the Eucharist. I was reinvigorated in my belief that God is truly present in the Eucharist.”
Nearly 60 students gathered at the Post Falls site. They were joined in-person by Dr. Edward Sri, a theologian, author, Catholic speaker and vice president of formation for FOCUS.
Dr. Sri spoke on relativism, why the truth is so crucial to living the Christian faith, and why it’s important to communicate trust with love.
Andrew Gogl, FOCUS team director at St. Augustine’s on the University of Idaho campus said, “One of the many graces from SEEK21 is that we now have seven students starting new Bible studies due to their experience.”
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